We love our family. We love our friends. And we love exchanging gifts, but no one can deny that this time of the year can really hurt our wallets.
If you’re like most people, you start to tell yourself things like this just after Halloween: “I’m going to restrain myself this season. I’m going to be frugal about gifts and spend less money eating out.” Millions of people have that same thought every year.
But then your parents are in town and want to go out to dinner. Your friends from college stopped by and want to get a few beers. Your office is doing 10 Days of Secret Santa and you want to participate. The local firehouse is looking for a donation. Your mailman expects a tip. Cousin Frankie had another baby who needs a Christmas gift. It goes on and on…
January first rolls around. You check your bank statement and shake your head. It happened again! You overspent.
We spend more than we like each year because we don’t have a plan. “I want to spend less” isn’t a goal, it’s a wish. We need some actionable steps to save money.
1. Save 25-50% on your meals out (your friends, too)
Naturally, restaurant traffic and sales improve during December. People are spending time with one another to celebrate their holidays during this month, which means there’s a lot of dining out and drinking at bars. If you’re one of those families that likes to eat out for your holiday meals, you’re no stranger to inflated restaurant bills during this season.
The simple answer is just spend less by eating smartly. Right now in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth NH, restaurants are offering 25-50% discounts through our mobile app, dealici, to patrons on time specific deals. Your entire group can save a lot of money.
There are two big advantages to this:
- Everyone in your party can use a discount at the same table (unlike other deal-based systems, like Groupon).
- When more people buy the same deal, the price drops for everyone (even the earlier buyers who receives a refund). So your holiday party can all drive the price down.
2. Be honest about your gift giving
Take a careful examination of who you exchange gifts with. Is the exchange really necessary?
That doesn’t mean you have to be a scrooge, but a lot of us end up in a position where we’re giving a gift because we know one is coming our way. Or we think we’re expected to give one. Or we’re worried what other people will think of us if we aren’t seen giving one.
In many cases, you’ll find that gift exchanging can be skipped and some people will won’t mind at all. That isn’t to say you should ignore your spouse or children, but your cubicle mate probably won’t care if you two don’t exchange. Your neighbor doesn’t want another fruit cake and would rather not give you one, too.
It’s alright to call off the exchange with people you’re close with, too, you just need to have an honest conversation about it. “Hey bro, I love spending Christmas with you, but I don’t think we need to exchange random kitchen gadgets again this year. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company.”
A great way to exchange gifts with your family without spending a lot of money is to play a game like Yankee Swap or Secret Santa.
3. Try potluck or dining out
If you’re typically the host for a family gathering, you know how expensive that can be. Even if you only serve six or eight people, you could still spend a couple hundred dollars on a nice meal. Feeding ten or fifteen? Break out the credit card.
No one should be stuck with the bill during the holidays, or organize a potluck meal. You can plan everything out so it all comes together nicely, or give everyone freedom to bring whatever they like.
Every year, more and more people are dinning out at restaurants during the big holidays. This has a number of advantages. You won’t have to cook or clean up. This also spreads out the financial burden. If everyone is responsible for their own meal, no one is foots the bill.
4. Plan your shopping carefully – and stick to it
Many people make this mistake. They buy a gift for someone in late November or early December. Then a week later they find something that is “just so perfect oh my god.” So they buy that too. Now they’ve overspent on one person.
Parents make this mistake all the time. Their kids mention something they want just before Christmas and mom and dad pick it up, even though they’ve been “done shopping” for weeks.
The best way to shop for anything is to make a list and stick to it. Don’t roam the mall looking for something to buy for something. Go there knowing what you want to pick up. To save money, shopping shouldn’t be an adventure – it should just be an errand.
If you do eye something that is just perfect for someone, don’t be afraid to return the original gift you purchased. It’s not like you are turning your back on the holidays, just trying to be reasonable.
5. Make homemade gifts
A homemade gift doesn’t have to look cheap and thoughtless. Many people love the idea of taking home something that cost you sweat, not dollars.
Turn a talent you have into a clever gift. If you can make your own peanut butter, fill some jars, add a fancy label and a piece of ribbon. If you can make origami, create beautiful paper animals that remind you of the receiver. People will love the quaintness of it.
If you don’t have a talent, this is the perfect opportunity to learn to do or make something people will love. Start early in the year so you get plenty of practice.
(This is also a great way to make people think you’ve spent a lot more on the holidays than you really have. For just a few dollars, you can make a whole box of cookies. Divide them into bags and hand them out to whomever you see. That’s an excellent way to build holiday cheer.)
How does your family celebrate the holidays? Do you have elaborate or small celebrations?